he Whitefire Theatre in fabulous Sherman Oaks (the heart of the San Fernando Valley theater and auto repair district) is staging a night of three TV pilots that never made it to air. One is a pilot my partner, David Isaacs and I wrote called UNDER ANDREA. We’ve turned it into a one act play and I’m directing it. It’s very funny as are the other two (by Russ Woody and Rick Dresser).
The program is called DEAD PILOTS SOCIETY and will run for four Monday nights beginning TONIGHT. (The others are July 6, July 13, and July 20. )
You can get tickets here.
One of the executives at Fox at the time moved over to NBC a few years later. Kevin Reilly was in charge. He said he wanted to go back to the “Must See TV” era of great urban sophisticated NBC comedies. The executive remembered ours and suddenly we were in play again at NBC.
We did a quick polish, they were all excited. We were on the fast track. And then….
MY NAME IS EARL premiered, got good numbers and Reilly decided to change his game plan. No urban sophisticated comedies. Now they wanted rural goofy comedies. Within 24 hours UNDER ANDREA was dead.
But it’s a script we always loved. A good friend, Russ Woody (MURPHY BROWN, BECKER, I forget what else but he has a bunch of Emmys) told us about this program the Whitefire Theatre was mounting – three unsold TV sitcom pilots – and invited us to submit one.
Like most writers we had several to choose from. Of those, we felt UNDER ANDREA would translate to the stage easier than the others. We took a day and adapted it into a one act. Happily, it was accepted.
We put together a terrific cast and I volunteered to direct it. I’ve directed many multi-camera sitcoms, but this was my first venture into theater directing. When I had my play, A OR B? at the Falcon Theatre last year I wisely let Andrew Barnicle, a seasoned veteran, direct, and I learned a ton. Helming a half hour theater piece is a good way to get my feet wet. It’s play directing with training wheels.
Last week we had our “tech” rehearsal, which means setting all the light and sound cues, nailing down the costume changes and props, figuring out the scene transitions, etc. All the details you put off till later? Later is now. It’s somewhat laborious and very exacting. I just kept thinking, “What must tech rehearsal on PIPPIN be like?”
As I said, this has been a learning process for me. For example: I’m used to saying “Action!” to begin a scene. They don’t do that in the theater I found out. They say: “Anytime you’re ready” or “Curtain up” or just wait for the actors to begin. Fuck it. I still say “Action!” In TV if I need a prop I call for the prop master. Here I go and buy it.
What’s made the experience so pleasant and fun is that the Whitefire provides great support. My eternal gratitude to Bryan Rasmussen, Jake O’Flaherty, David Svengalis, and the entire theater company.
Tonight is opening night and I’m very excited. If anything, watching the pilot come to life, both David Isaacs and I had the same reaction – Fuck NBC and Fox for not making this. It’s a helluva lot better than most of the crap they did make.
See for yourself. And if you come, I’ll be around. Stop by and say hello.